Fauna & Flora International’s ‘Uncle Elephant’ wins prestigious award

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is pleased to announce that Tuy Sereivathana, known as Vathana, project manager for the Cambodia Elephant Conservation Group has been awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for 2010.

Vathana, affectionately known as “Uncle Elephant” in the communities he works in, holds a Masters degree in wood technology and joined FFI as a seconded government officer from the Ministry of Environment in 2003 to work on elephant conservation as part of a multiple agency team that included the Cambodian Forestry Administration, Ministry of Environment and FFI.

In 2006, he left his government position to join the FFI Cambodia team and became the manager of the Cambodian Elephant Conservation Group.

Born in Cambodia in 1970, Vathana’s upbringing clearly reflects the political conditions of the time. Forced to flee the capital, Phnom Penh, in 1975, his parents took Vathana into the countryside where he assumed the role of buffalo keeper for his family’s farm.

During his childhood years in the countryside, Vathana developed a deep respect for nature and was particularly fascinated with elephants. Later, when he was awarded a scholarship to attend university in Belarus, he focused on forestry studies and returned to Cambodia committed to working to conserve his country’s natural resources.

The Goldman Environmental Prize supports individuals struggling to win environmental victories against the odds and inspires ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the world. The winners are selected by an international jury from confidential nominations submitted by a worldwide network of environmental organisations and individuals.

Vathana receiving his award at the 2010 Goldman Prize ceremony

Vathana with Katie Frohardt, Executive Director of Fauna & Flora International, Inc., and LA Zoo Director John Lewis.

Photo credits: Tom Dusenbery, Goldman Environmental Prize, FFI